The news of the government shutdown and the approaching fiscal cliff have grabbed the headlines from an even more important event this week for savers and borrowers – the nomination of Janet Yellen as the next Chairperson of the Federal Reserve. While current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s specialty revolved around the Great Depression and how to avoid economic calamities, Ms. Yellen’s specialty and research has revolved around the impact of monetary policy on labor markets. A review of her policy speeches shows that she is willing to allow inflation to run up a bit in order to ease unemployment, and thus tends to support a looser monetary policy than some other economists and members of the Federal Reserve. She is quoted as saying: “To me, a wise and humane policy is occasionally to let inflation rise even when inflation is running above target.”
The NY Times has reported that Ms. Yellen helped organize the recent decision to continue the current level of quantitative easing and to include in the Fed’s December announcement that it would tolerate projected inflation at 2.5% in order to reduce the unemployment rate.
In general, Ms. Yellen has voted with Chairman Bernanke most of the time on issues revolving around quantitative easing and she broadly agrees with him on monetary policy. She has also been one of the chief proponents and architects of the Fed’s asset purchases.
Critics say that she is too easy on money and that her views promote asset bubbles, like the Internet, housing, and now potentially foreign markets.
The bottom line is that savers and borrowers shouldn’t expect to see any major changes in policy when she joins the Fed. She is expected to work to continue to make the Fed more consistent and continue to refine the Fed policymaking process, but her views dovetail closely with Bernanke’s. If there is to be any change, it might be that she lets quantitative easing run a bit longer than Chairman Bernanke, leading to lower rates for a longer period of time.
The NY Times had a good article summarizing her background and views called Yellen’s Path From Liberal Theorist to Fed Voice for Jobs.